Zimbabwe: Government Introduces New HIV Treatment

GOVERNMENT is with effect from this month switching all people on HIV treatment to a new one of one tablet per day from the previous three pills to make it easier for patients not to default on taking medication.

The new single tablet has a combination of three drugs (Tenofovir/Lamivudine/Efavirenz TLE), a departure from the previous complicated treatment of three different tablets namely Tenofovir, Lovovidine and Nevirapine (TLN).

The government estimates that 1. 3 million people are living with HIV, of which 187 000 of them are children under the age of 15 years.

Out of the total estimated HIV positive population half of them are receiving approved treatment.

HIV prevalence currently stands at 15% down from over 27% in 1997, with 500 000 people said to have lost their lives to HIV related illnesses over the past 16 years.

“As I speak we are at a stage where we have adequate stocks of the single dose tablets and this should be available to everybody and we are hoping that everyone who has been on TLN can now switch to the new TLE,” head of HIV and TB unit in the Health and Child Care Ministry, Dr Owen Mugurungi, told NewZimbabwe.com in an interview.

Dr Mugurungi said the previous treatment was complicated and forced many to default.

He explained: “The disadvantage of the TLN was that these were two separate packs of medicines and you were taking two different drugs, two in the morning and one in the evening and of course there were challenges in distributing these medicines. The more tablets you distribute the more complicated it is and the more likely that you might forget or one of the tablets might go missing, but when you have one single tablet which is all the medicine that you need then it becomes easy and more feasible for you to achieve the maximum viral suppression that we want.”

Zimbabwe failed to meet its 2013 target of putting 840 000 people living with HIV on treatment by 90 000. But Dr Mugurungi expressed confidence that the system was getting more efficient and manageable.